An Intro to the Inner Task: Eight Exercises in Sensation Part I
In this two-part post, Jeanine Siler Jones invites us to work with foundational approaches through a cycle of eight Inner Tasks. These exercises were originally designed to be used, one per week, over the course of eight weeks in conjunction with daily life and practice. Available here as part of Northeast Wisdom's intention to offer quality resources and support for the Wisdom community, these may be used in whatever way best works for you. Each one is an excellent resource for extended practice in the activities of life over time, whether you are new to Wisdom or an experienced practitioner. You will find Inner Tasks for Weeks I ~ IV here.
We welcome your comments and your own experiences of these exercises in the Comments section below.
Welcome all—whether you are new, experienced, doing your own inner practice or working with a group of Wisdom friends—to an eight-week round of Inner Tasks. In this cycle we have the pleasure of working with some of the foundational tenets of the Inner Task.
Our work with inner tasks is about our relationship with attention. It is the mindfulness practice of our Wisdom lineage; our connecting with conscious attention, our invitation to see our conditioning and release it into greater awareness. Practical conscious work is part of our Wisdom School rhythm, from the teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff. These inner tasks are intended to offer simple prompts so that you might weave these practices into your day as part of your intention to be more fully present in your life.
I invite you to notice that attention doesn’t need to grow, it is already there; something within you that you are invited to notice, connect with and be touched by.
Because our inner work can get too cognitive, these inner tasks are geared for our moving center and are therefore based in sensation, and the way energy flows and is blocked in our bodies. For this first week I want to invite you to develop and deepen your noticing of sensation in your body. You might even begin growing your personal lexicon of sensation words like dense, fluid, tremulous, fluttery, buzzy, constricted, vibrant. Play with it, notice your experience, be curious and creative.
My hunch is that life will provide many opportunities to practice. Activation and the full gamut of emotions are happening throughout our days. This week, make it your intention to come back to your body and notice what is happening in sensation. This is a basic building block for bringing the moving center online which is elemental to being present.
Note the sensations in your body without judgment. In fact, thank the part of you that helped you remember this particular Inner Task. Sensing your gratitude will encourage you to continue with this practice!
As we noted last week, inner work can rely heavily on the cognitive center. Our inner tasks, as part of bringing our attention to practical conscious work, are opportunities in sensing and inhabiting ourselves. They give us practices for recognizing attaching or clinging by learning how that shows up in our bodies.
We are building on last week’s task of noticing sensation in our bodies. Again, we thank the inner witness, the part of us that notices, rather than being critical or upset with ourselves that we “did it again.” Slowly we begin to see more clearly our automatic ways of being in the world, our own habits of mind and body. With that clear seeing, space opens up. We are on the path of knowing with more of ourselves present.
For this week, what does attaching or clinging feel like in your body? How does your body let you know you are caught in that whirl of energy? Can you wade into those sensations with awareness and openness, slowing down and returning to sensation if you are getting caught in storytelling or analyzing? Can you face the energy pool that is kicked up, with curiosity, and hold steady with it, finding your feet or breath to re-stabilize as needed? What happens next?
Cynthia says “there are two joysticks in our Wisdom work, surrender and the power to attend”. They guide us as we engage Wisdom in our daily lives. In our practical conscious work, we are practicing attending, giving attention mindfully to an inner task while participating in outer tasks. As we practice in the midst of physical work, group work or going about our day in task mode, we can open ourselves to opportunities for seeing with clarity.
As Cynthia reminds us: where 2 or more are gathered, irritation is present. Can attending to irritation be your wake-up call? When irritation is present, what vibration, tone or energy are you putting out? How are you losing touch with your center or your beingness through gesture, movement or physical and emotional patterns?
Remember this practical conscious work sets up the conditions for us to see ourselves, to practice a self-observation, not analyzing, criticizing or storytelling. So, for this week, let’s practice gathering our inner being, then setting the inner task to notice when irritation arises. Remember to notice it in sensation. Let your body alert you. How does irritation show up in your body? Pause, sense in, and notice what is happening. Take a snapshot so that this inner task becomes a part of your power to attend, part of your awakening and allowing as you weave Wisdom work into your daily living.
When you see clearly, even for a moment, there is an opening within:
~to re-gather yourself (gently, including the irritation, maybe not caught up in it)
~to touch into and reconnect with your center, your inner beingness
~to move from there as you begin again.
One of the practices we utilize when participating on practical conscious work teams during Wisdom School is a stop exercise. During the work period, a designated team leader will call a stop, ringing a chime and inviting all group members to pause where they are, in mid action, and stop for thirty seconds to one minute.
We are to take stock of where we are: noticing our bodies, gestures, emotions and thoughts, noticing if we are aware of our inner task and the group. A stop interferes with the automaticity that can take over in any outer task and invites us to come back to NOW. We may find our feet and take an internal inventory, noticing without judgment. We may notice energy leaks and take a moment to remember where we are and what we are doing.
We all get lost in our activities, habits and personal stories. The chime brings us back, invites the Pause so that we can engage our inner task again as a focal point for our re-grounding and re-connecting with our inner Being.
Can you play with a stop exercise and use a timer with a chime this week? Maybe as you are getting ready to fold laundry, sweep the floor or load the dishwasher? See what happens when you call a stop on yourself and notice where you are just as the chime sounds.
Let’s set a basic inner task of finding your feet throughout the day this week. This inner task is not to think about your feet but is to find them, notice them, notice how they make contact with the ground. Sense into your feet. This is a foundational grounding in our bodies that helps us re-center and begin again.
posted by Jeanine Siler Jones, February 21, 2020
Thank you to the artists; all images courtesy of the Artlandish Aboriginal Art Gallery
Jeanine Siler Jones, LCSW, is a practicing therapist who has been an Enneagram teacher for over 15 years. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she has been engaged with Wisdom work since 2009 and has been one of the primary igniters of Wisdom School Southeast. Since her deep dive into Wisdom work with Cynthia Bourgeault she has been playing with the Wisdom roots Gurdjieff brought to the west. She works with people interested in spiritually integrated therapy, and leads contemplative retreats and groups on her own as well as collaboratively, including Deepening in the Practices of Wisdom groups and Wisdom Schools in the lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault.
Jeanine holds a Master’s degree in Social Work, a Certificate in Theology from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is trained as a Wisdom infused Spiritual Director from Moravian Theological Seminary. Read more about her in Northeast Wisdom’s Seedlings.
This series, Part I and Part II, was originally posted by Jeanine as Inner Task Friday December 20, 2019 ~ February 7, 2020 on the Wisdom Community Facebook page. It is available now, for easy reference and practice, on the Resources Page of the Northeast Wisdom website under Inner Practice and you may find Part II now on Breaking Ground.